Bangkok (AFP) – Seventeen Thai hostages kidnapped and held for weeks by Hamas in the Gaza Strip are expected to return home on Thursday to be greeted by delighted relatives at Bangkok airport.
Published on: 11/30/2023 – 03:53Amended: 11/30/2023 – 03:51
Tens of thousands of Thais were working in Israel, mainly in the agricultural sector, when Palestinian militants invaded the border on October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping around 240, according to Israeli authorities.
At least 32 Thais have been kidnapped by Hamas, with the Bangkok Foreign Ministry and Thai Muslim groups working to negotiate their release.
On Thursday, around 3:00 p.m. (08:00 GMT), 17 are expected to land at Suvarnabhumi airport, after weeks of captivity.
They are accompanied by Thai Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, who visited Israel earlier this week.
Ten members of the group were released last Friday, as a truce began after weeks of negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States. Seven more people were released by Hamas in the days that followed.
The group is recovering in a hospital in Israel as authorities prepare to repatriate them home, Thai officials said.
Four more Thais were released on Wednesday and are undergoing medical examinations, the Foreign Ministry said, bringing the total number of those released to 23, nine of whom remain in captivity.
Israel responded to the Hamas attack with a massive campaign of air, artillery and naval strikes alongside a ground offensive on Gaza, killing nearly 15,000 people, mostly civilians, according to Palestinian officials.
Thailand had 30,000 citizens in Israel at the time of the raid, the majority of them migrant workers from the kingdom’s poorer northeastern provinces.
Thirty-nine Thais were killed and 19 injured during the war, and the kingdom evacuated more than 8,500 of its residents, according to the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok.
© 2023 AFP